By Paul Motter
The new Cunard Queen Elizabeth is currently under construction and still about two months from completion in Monfalcone, Italy, a small town on the extreme northeast coast of Italy between Venice and Trieste. I was honored to be invited for a tour of the ship this last weekend. I will be publishing my best pictures and videos from this trip in CruiseMates this week, but first here is some of the history behind this important new ship.
Cunard Lines currently has the famous Queen Mary 2 and its smaller fleet-mate, Queen Victoria. When the new Queen Elizabeth is inaugurated this coming October the Cunard fleet will still have just three ships.
The presiding godmother for the forthcoming Queen Elizabeth naming ceremony has not yet been announced, but if past Cunard christenings are any indication, it will be a royal affair. The Queen Mary 2 naming in 2003 was performed by her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II, while the January 2007 naming of Queen Victoria was conferred by Camilla, Duchess of Windsor, in her first official act as a member of the Royal Family.
Many of you are already aware that this will be the third ship named Queen Elizabeth. Her lineage is important since her décor and a many of the art and museum pieces onboard will pay homage to the original Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship, the original Queen Mary. Both ships were built in the late 1930s. The original Queen Elizabeth was destroyed by fire in 1972, but the original Queen Mary is still intact, now permanently moored in Long Beach, California, as a hotel and museum.
These original Queens (Mary and Elizabeth) served the Allies proudly as troop carriers in World War II. Queen Elizabeth escaped England in 1940 by sailing from the Scottish shipyard directly to New York starting the very night the Luftwaffe bombed the docks of Southampton, where the Germans believed she was headed. Painted gray and finally fitted out in Singapore, she carried thousands of Australian troops to the war in Europe and back again from 1940 - 1946. It wasn't until late 1946 that she was finally able to assume the civilian ocean liner duties for Cunard Lines for which she was originally intended. She served for Cunard until 1968.
The Queen Elizabeth 2 (usually referred to as just "QE2") entered service in 1969, replacing both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. The advent of jet travel rendered the presence of two ocean liners "a bit redundant" as the British say. Cunard embraced a new motto, "Getting There is Half the Fun," and continued to offer transatlantic service on QE2 for at least a good portion of every year henceforth.
When Cunard Lines was acquired by Carnival Corp. in 1998 the new owners decided to build the largest and most powerful ocean liner ever, the Queen Mary 2, introduced in January 2004. At 148,528 gross tons and a passenger capacity of 3056 she is capable of cruising at nearly 30 knots (approximately 30% faster than the average cruise ship) and is the most powerful passenger ship ever built, as well as one of the most elegant with grand ballrooms and a beautiful selection of suite accommodations.
Importantly; there are few companies in the world as distinguished as Cunard Lines, but the company was facing a very uncertain future before it was acquired by Micky Arison's Carnival Corp. Arison not only saved Cunard from a possible foundering, but also kept most of the management and all of the tradition of the line intact.
Cunard launched its second ship under Carnival management, the cruise liner Queen Victoria, in January of 2007. With all of the sophistication and tradition of Cunard, Queen Victoria is a scaled down version of Queen Mary 2 but designed with a focus on comfort and style rather than speed and size. Queen Victoria is 90,000 gross tons and carries 2014 passengers.
It was decided to retire the 39-year old Queen Elizabeth 2 in 2007. She sailed her final voyages to many important world ports, from Sydney to San Francisco, New York and the U.K., before retiring in Dubai.
The new Queen Elizabeth was announced by Cunard in October of 2007. All three Cunard ships have the same three passenger classes; the Queen's, Princess' and Britannia classes, and both Victoria and Elizabeth each have a smaller but similarly named Queen's Room ballroom, Queen's Grill and Princess' Grill, Grand Britannia Dining Room and Golden Lion Pub.
Cunard decided NOT to name the ship Queen Elizabeth 3 because the interior is intended as homage to the original Queen Mary (the first) and Queen Elizabeth (the first) sister ships which both so proudly served the cause of the allies in World War II. There will be entire sections devoted to original "Cunardia" from these two ships onboard the new Queen Elizabeth, such as telephones, dinner service pieces, official portraits and celebrity pictures. The décor will reflect the art deco theme of the mid 1930s era in which the original Queen Elizabeth was conceived.
Stay tuned for more pictures and details about the new Queen Elizabeth coming soon in CruiseMates.
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